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Ballet Arizona’s “Nutcracker” is an exemplary holiday production

KBAQ, By Chris Curcio

There are many things that turn a City into a place of distinction. In the arts, one of the primary points of pride is an exemplary holiday “Nutcracker” production. That’s exactly what Ballet Arizona delivers annually at Symphony Hall with a magnificently spectacular, brilliantly danced, and stunningly choreographed staging.

This beautiful production debuted last year. This year’s version sparkles with dazzling distinction. Having the Phoenix Symphony play the familiar score under Timothy Russell’s stylish conducting is the perfection that distinguishes this production as a big City affair.

This “Nutcracker” is blessed with Ib Andersen’s brilliant choreographic concept. It’s traditional but is full of dynamic flair. Andersen’s company dances with a knowing professional sheen that carries through to the multitude of children, many students at Ballet Arizona’s school, that dance with a perfection rarely seen in young dancers. Working with the luminous adult company no doubt inspires these young dancers.

And the massive physical production boasts stylishly elaborate sets, stunning costumes, grand lighting, and dazzling special effects that include the best on stage snow I’ve ever seen and polished projections that amaze and instill the ballet’s wonderment.

The story is familiar to most. It traces Clara’s Christmas Eve dream after she receives a magical Nutcracker doll that takes her on a beautiful journey through the Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy. There, a series of specialty dances bring to life the magical quality of Clara’s dream. She’s accompanied on her journey by a Prince who evolves from the Nutcracker.

It’s a story everyone knows but Tchaikovsky’s grandly melodic score, the stunning dancing, and the magical visual effects make this a winning holiday triumph.

Detailing specific dancers seems unnecessary because the many performances require multiple combinations of the corps dancers. On opening night, the lyrical beauty of every dancer and every choreographic routine was stunning. The second act’s specialty dances were magnificent from the fiery passion of the “Russian Trepak” to the delicate beauty of the “Waltz of the Flowers” dazzled with energy and superb dance. But the second act’s brilliance never overshadows the first act’s war between the Mouse King and the Nutcracker or the lush simplicity of the opening sequences that establish the story at a gala Christmas Eve party.

Ballet Arizona’s “Nutcracker” takes the company to the grandest place as it rivals the finest American productions of this holiday spectacular. The local “Nutcracker” earns five shimmering stars out of five and continues through December 27. For KBAQ, I’m Chris Curcio.